Thursday, June 3, 2010

Seek out BURZYNSKI (maybe its doctor, too) in Eric Merola's new documentary ; Interview with the filmmaker


TrustMovies can sometimes be too credulous. He admits this. He would like to think it is part of his charm, but it is more likely related to his stupidity. And if he is being credulous again in his passionate plea that you seek out and view the new documentary BURZYNSKI, so be it. Better credulous in the cause of some-
thing you believe worthwhile than suspicious to the point of an ignorance that approaches fundamen-
talism. (For the latter, see the "review" in this week's Village Voicefull of snarky innuendo and near-complete misrepresentation of what the film contains.)

No documentary, save this year's Academy-blessed The Cove and Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight has angered me more than Burzynski, less about the title character, shown above, and what he is doing (which appears to be pretty damn good), than because of how the medical establishment and our government (both state and federal) have unjustly harassed this man and his work.  The unmitigated unfairness of what has gone on -- and continues to this day -- is so shocking and anger-making, that watching as it piles up in this documentary is enough to turn a reasonable man into a terrorist. And just why has all this happened?  The good doctor appears to have developed a cancer cure, the success rate for which clearly outdoes all others -- the use of antineoplastons in the treatment of human cancers -- while avoiding the often terrible and sometimes fatal (especially to children) side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Instead of embracing and encouraging this treatment, the powers-that-be have brought Bursynski up again and again and again on charges that have no basis in fact.  Each time charges have been dismissed.  That his method works is not disputed.  What apparently is disputed is that a small, insignificant and maybe somewhat weird individual, rather than a large drug company, stands to profit from what looks like the best cancer cure anyone has come up with so far.

Further, it appears that, after trying to discredit his research and work, the government itself now holds what would be, under any kind of fair justice system, illegal patents on the very materials that Burzynski himself had earlier legally patented.  Harassment, deception, betrayal, theft, fraud and so much more are uncovered in this documentary by filmmaker Eric Merola (shown left) that Burzynski, absolutely one-sided as it is, still rivets and brings up questions that must be asked about the collusion between our government, drug companies, the FDA and some very large institutions supposedly dedicated to conquering cancer.

If you troll the web, you will come up with blogs that indicate that Dr. Bursynski also holds patents on cancer-fighting toothpaste, anti-aging creams and so forth.  This may all be true (or not), and it also may be true that the good doctor is a wacko in some regards and may hold ideas that may seem crazy to many of us.  But all this is beside the point of what Merola's documentary shows us.  It is the evidence that appears here that needs to be addressed and countered, if found incorrect.  Nobody that I have read so far has done this.  Instead they toss out innuendo and nasty generalities instead of addressing the very clear points at hand -- about the cures Bursynski's treatment has effected, the repeated harassment of the doctor, and the very sleazy-appearing dealings of the National Cancer Institute (above), the FDA (below), the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and even the federal government patent office.  All this is very clearly shown in the documentary -- and so  the movie deserves to be seen, discussed and either exonerated or found wanting.

This film reminded me in some ways of Brent Leung's documentary House of Numbers that will finally be out on DVD later this month for all to see and finally weigh-in on. This is another good film that was summarily dismissed in similar fashion and deserves to be seen and argued about.

Burzynski opens Friday, June 4 at the Cinema Village theater in NYC, where director Merola will be appearing at Q&As following some of the showings of the film, and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3.  Further playdates around the country can be found here; click and then scroll down.

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Because I was so impressed with this documentary, and because the Village Voice review is such a shoddy piece of  journalism, I contacted the filmmaker and asked him pointed, specific questions about the content of the Village Voice review, along with some of my own.  What follows is Trust Movies in bold and Eric Merola in standard type. I believe, if you read Mr. Merola's very good answers, you will be covinced, as am I, of his honest intentions and so will want to see his film.

I found the Voice review nasty from the get-go: calling you "a former art director of commercials" -- as though someone like that certainly can't be trusted to make a real documentary.  That's typically snarky innuendo. 

I'm not really sure how to respond to that one. I made a living in advertising, never really enjoyed it. I sort of got stuck in it, while always wanting to be in TV & Film. This is obviously an attack on my character, while ignoring the subject matter.

Since Ms Taylor mentions the possibility of an “undisclosed relationship,” I think this needs to be addressed. How did you come to make this documentary?

As I stated in my press kit, I have always been interested in documentaries that delve into hard truths, I'm a huge fan of "The Cove," "Food Inc," "Why We Fight," "No End In Sight," and so on.

I read a book called "The Cancer Industry" by Ralph Moss. Ralph was fired from Sloan-Kettering in 1977 for blowing the whistle on another coverup that occurred at Sloan. They were hiding positive results from a certain treatment, while going on TV saying the studies failed to show any efficacy. This story fascinated me. In his book, he had a chapter on Burzynski. What intrigued me about Burzynski was, he isn't peddling some "holistic treatment' or "lifestyle change" to treat cancer. He made an accidental profound discovery (as virtually all scientific discoveries are often made) by realizing that people with cancer lacked a certain strain of peptides in their blood and urine. I was also intrigued that he went up against every possible state and federal power in their attempts to halt his practices and won. No one beats the FDA, it just doesn't happen. He beat them twice.

One day in 2008 I literally called up the clinic to alert them I wanted to explore doing a documentary film on Burzynski. His assistants said "yeah, you and 10 other other people who claim to want to do this and either never follow through or waste Burzynski's precious time." Combined with the fact that Burzynski and his staff are always on the look-out for people posing as someone that wants to do the right thing, and then burns him in their report (see the recent Houston Press articles - they came in with a big smile pretending to be in support of him, only to burn him in their publication).

Burzynski was politely distrustful of me at the start. He made me read various books, review various publications, and jump through many hoops before even speaking to me in person. This was all through email via his assistants. Finally, after several months of back and forth and long gaps waiting for responses, he finally agreed to the first interview. I flew myself to Houston and had my first 5 hour on-camera interview with him.

I also told him I wanted patient's medical records. I said "I want only terminal diagnoses' diagnosed from third party institutions, and none of them could have previously undergone chemo or radiation before coming to him." I was given a slew to choose from. I interviewed more than a dozen total - traveling all over the nation on my own dime to interview them in their homes, and some who were in Houston just came into the clinic for the interview. This wasn't easy either - many of these patients were very distrustful of my intentions, they had seen what the press had done to him.

What started out as a doc about his discovery—and my primary goal was to show patients, their records, and their recovery—blossomed into something much bigger than I had planned.  I was also impressed at how organized and on top of his game Burzynski is. He had everything I needed readily available.

The longer I spent with him -- and the more he kept telling me about the rigged NCI clinical trials and the Dept Of Health and Human Services pairing up with one of his own scientists to file duplicate patents of his work -- the more things became exciting. However, I told him "I simply cannot put that stuff in this film unless it can be absolutely proven. Given the controversial nature of this film and his treatment as it is, I can't just start saying the NCI intentionally sent 9 people to death by ignoring protocols and diluting medicine -- and that the FDA itself was filing dupe patents of your work while simultaneously trying to throw you in prison. That's nuts!"  But, after a long and laborious process of digging up documentation, he was able to prove it all.

The documents regarding the rigged clinical trials (the letters back and forth with him and Friedman, the protocols that were signed off on, the protocols that were broken, the clumsy Mayo Clinic article stating themselves they diluted the medicine) -- these was easy for me to obtain, because Burzyski had sent a hard copy package of these documents in the late 1990's (and many more I couldn't possibly fit into the film) to Joe Biden, Pelosi, many congressman and senators as well as ALL major news organizations from TV to newspapers attempting to alert those in power to expose this.  NO ONE TOUCHED IT. I saw the hard copies, I have the pages of the "cc" list to the people it was sent to. Everyone ignored it. I felt it was my turn to use this very same documentation in my film as another attempt to get the info out there.

As far as the patents, that's easy, anyone can go to "free patents online" and download them for yourself. They are public domain.

To sum up your questions about "how I got into this doc" - what started as a curious inquiry turned into an absolute obsession for me. Once I realized how huge this story was, I literally dropped everything, quit my freelance job art directing JC Penney ads at Spontaneous in NYC, and started traveling everywhere from CA to Atlanta, to NC, you name it -- to interview patients.

I have exhausted all financial resources on this film. I am presently living off of credit cards and borrowed money until the DVD release. I never received a dime from Burzynski, never met him before this, never met a single patient of his before this, I literally picked up the story and never put it down. The entire process, from gaining his trust, gaining all the documents and records I needed, and realizing that "wow, there they are!" - it's all here.  No assumptions, no theories, just cold hard facts. I was stunned that I was able to acquire everything I needed to make this case. Lawyers have told me there is enough evidence in my film and in my possession to convict at least a handful of people for the rest of their lives -- that to me, is exciting. One really powerful lawyer even said he'd take the FDA to court "pro-bono" after seeing this film. But Burzynski told him, "no, we need the FDA to approve my drug, let's put this behind us, and move forward. We can't come in the front door asking for approval, and then the back door trying to indict them. We know we are right, they know they are wrong, the truth will surface." And it already has.

Another interesting note is, David Axelrod has seen this film. He was handed a copy of this DVD in Nov of 2009 at a meeting in Washington by his old college buddy (and friend of Burzynski) who was once an MD for Pfizer. I was told Axelrod "claimed" an investigation should be opened - but they've heard nothing since). The big boys know this treatment is legit. The White House knows. The problem is the financial devastation it will cause to the cancer industry if it is allowed to reach the public under the standard "7 year exclusive license" before it becomes generic.

Wow. I am even more impressed than I was just after watching the film. That pretty much does it. Unless there is anything more you want to add. For instance, in her VV review, Taylor says that Burzynski claims (italics mine) to have cured scores of patients of a lethal brain cancer.  But this is not just a claim, is it?This appears to have been proven, even according to the FDA and the courts.

Yes, the FDA's very own data, the very same data and process that any other member of Phrma would use to research a new drug for approval -- that process and the same people have recorded that the treatment works. No government entity, no physician who has reviewed his work (not some random article by the opposition, I'm talking about actually being in on a clinical trial, working directly with his patients, etc.) none of them have said "the treatment doesn't work." Look at the court testimony from Dr. Nicholas Patronas. He is the founder of the neuroradiology section of the NCI. The founder of the section of the NCI that deals exclusively with brain tumors! I'm not sure what else Ella needs! You really don't get much more "proven and legit" than a head of the NCI testifying under oath in support of Burzynski.

Ella also notes his claim to have cured scores of patients of a lethal brain cancer with a treatment derived from animal urine...

Again, not sure what else she needs than actual FDA data showing that Burzynski is the only scientist in history to have cured a childhood inoperable brainstam glioma. Not sure how the "claim" part works there. Likewise, Ella "claims" to have seen the film. And animal urine? Yeah, wow. Again, if she saw the film, she'd notice her glaring error.

What about the part where she notes that you produce no patient records other than the doctor's own, and offers no credible proof of the drug's success and no data about its side effects?

Again, in the film you see the medical records from third party institutions, like MD Anderson, etc. -- not Burzynski's records. And again, all of these patients' recoveries were verifed by the FDA itself, because after all, they were cured while attending an FDA supervised clinical trial (did I mention these patient's recoveries were supervised by the FDA?) . To say I only used Burzynski's own records is another example of Ella's embarrassingly clumsy attempts at pretending she watched the film.

Unless she really is just slow...

I should note that, because the film may appear bogged down with documents as it is, I did not include the fact that all of these patients' recoveries were also verified by another third party institution - just so Burzynski could cover his bases. Some of these are on the website; I now plan on adding ALL of them.

And then there's the fact that she says you slam chemotherapy and radiation...

Again, if you watch the film, I do not once slam chemo or radiation. I use the FDA's own data on their side effects. I also allow the NIH to state for themselves the problematic nature of chemo & radiation.

I do have to admit the documentary does seem one-sided.

Frankly, I think the media is filled with enough of the opposition -- anyone can read it all they wish. I had certain goals I wanted to meet:
1. Proof the medicine works - medical records, etc.
2. State level persecution and victory
3. Federal level persecution victory
4. Proof the NCI clinical trials were rigged to fail, killing those 9 patients. (This is an important one as all the opposing members use that article as "proof" his treatment doesn't work. I needed to show thoroughly that that article is scientifically invalid. The NCI even admitted before they published it that "no conclusion can be made" - yet they published it anyway.
5. The patents.

By the time you get through these five points, you have a full running time. I had originally included many of the opposition in the film, but I cut them for the final running time. For instance, Dr. Keith Black, a famous neurosurgeon in LA was on Larry King last fall sitting right next to Burzynski and waved around those invalid NCI trials as "proof" the treatment doesn't work. I had planned on calling him out on it. Second Dr. Black also claimed that the brain tumor patient he sent to Burzynski died shortly after. Well, the reality is, Jodi Fenton, who is the first patient in my film consulted with Dr. Black before going to Burzynski. Dr. Black told her he was a fraud and a quack. 30 days later - Jodi was cured of her brain tumor. Dr. Black fails to acknowledge this. As Jodi said in the film "he just wrote it off".

I did have the film packed with "opposition", but between running time and meeting the goals I felt I had to meet plus just looking at how absurd the "opposition" is, I decided to cut it. Again, anyone can spend hours reading the opposition. However, I also think that I do show some opposition in the film.

Sort of, I think.  In any case, you have really answered to my satisfaction Ms Taylor's objections as well as my own.

I'll be delighted to answer any more questions you might have.

TrustMovies wants to thanks Eric for the extra time and effort that he's put in here.  We wish him well for the success of his film so that Dr. Burzynski can continue his work, and so that Eric can stop adding more charges on those credit cards.  And we hope one or more of those lawyers decides to sue the hell out of a lot of the sleazebags involved in this case.

(All photos, with the exception of 
that of Mr. Merola, are from the film itself.)

14 comments:

Hereticnyc (AL) said...

Terrific work, James. Not only do you nail the film and its exceptional virtues, but you add a zinger of an interview with Merola. This is the best first reference for anyone looking into this film and Burzynski, who is a sterling character whose treatments are clearly effective (short of vast Phase III trials which cost so much money which independents have such a hard time raising with the attacks of the FDA and other blind watchdogs of the status quo). Anyone who cancer touches should look up Burzynski and the real story as shockingly revealed by this excellent film, and by your spot on review and interview. I am just publishing my own corrective review on scienceguardian.com but you make it almost superfluous except for filling in the history of the science, which knowledgeable people have always known is on Burzynski's side. The reflex defenders of the status quo are often so shoddy, and this is a prime example.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Hereticnyc, and since I know your work and believe in it, I will accept your praise for my review and interview, and for this very worthwhile film and its subject. Please get your own review up ASAP, as BURZYNSKI needs a good push, and fast!

kermitwsmith said...

James,

I have not, but will view the doc.

My mother, 66, diagnosed stage four non-Hodgkins lymphoma 5 rounds of chemo to remission.

1 month later her oncologist would have rated it stage seven. 6 months with Burzynski >85% reduced and challenged financially to complete the treatment.

It all sets up pharma and the med establishment to win ... free on title 19 or a little more on insurance for fatal and debilitating conventional treatments ... or 100K out of pocket for a real cure.

Kudos to you for opening this BLOG!

kermit

James van Maanen, said...

Wow, Kermit-- this sounds like yet another amazing Burzynski story. If only it were more affordable. Which it cannot be until it is recognized as standard treatment that insurance companies and Medicare/caid will cover. Someday, perhaps, but I doubt we shall live that long (me at least). I hope that you and she can manage that final 15 per cent, and I wish you well!

stan said...

Quack Quack--it isn't a documentary. I is an ad for quackery. I am a cancer survivior by the way. Lung Cancer the least funded for research.

James van Maanen, said...

Glad you've survived cancer, Stan, but sorry -- you're dead wrong about this documentary. If you actually watch it -- give it your full attention -- you would never be able to make that comment.

Hillside Club said...

James, excellent work.
We at the Hillside Club in Berkeley think this is so important, we are hosting a public showing, even though it is available to many on the Internet.
Your interview was a great help.
Thanks
John

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, John at Hillside Club. I hope your screening is very well attended and turns some more heads in the direction of the good doctor.

Malindabelle said...

Mr. Maanen,

I just purchased the film from Amazon.com. My husband and were not so surprised about the ongoing criminal activity between big pharma, the FDA, and other governmental agencies. We are surprised however that Dr. Burzynski has been able to escape, with his life and even more so, a free man!
We are convinced he has made a profound discovery and its so sad that this is the first we've heard of it!
IF I had been a parent of a child who suffered through chemo/radiation treatments only to have them suffer then die and then found out there was something else that could have been done.............words escape me!
I have not had that misfortune but am so very interested in seeing this come into the light that I plan to share my dvd with as many people as will watch it!
I appreciated also your interview with Merolla which shed even more light into the character of this man. It is beyond me how he can keep a smile on his face and such a positive attitude but it just goes to show that you can't keep a good man down. Integrity and truth will rise to the top.
Thank You for your part in revealing truth.
Grace & Peace,
malinda

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Malindabelle. This whole story is scary and revolting. In fact, the bottom-front-page story in today's NY Times Sunday Review section is about how big Pharma has ceased producing cheap and effective cancer drugs to concentrate on those that cost much more (and do much less). And our current and former Presidents not only allow this to continue but apparently root for it. What hope have we, so long as our "elected" official are elected via huge contributions from corporations.

Start fighting for public funding ONLY for all elections, with no private contributions from anyone (or thing). That would finally help level the playing field and prevent elections from being so easily "bought." Though, really, I suspect we are too far along in the game at this point. It is almost over....

Penelope Lane said...

Why didn't you ask Eric Merola (aka Eric Clinton) about his background in making lunatic conspiracy movies? Or did you not know he made ZEITGEIST (with his brother Peter Merola, aka PJ Merola, aka Peter Joseph)? Does it not bother you that this story is brought to you by the same people who have shown their willingness to believe any conspiracy theory that knocks on their doors in the past? It sure bothers me. Also, assuming he didn't just hire Merola, why would a real doctor/scientist collaborate with a known conspiracy-peddler? Perhaps because Merola has demonstrated a brazen willingness to LIE, manipulate and distort in the past?

James van Maanen, said...

Hi, Penelope (and thank you SO much for not remaining anonymous!)--
I did NOT know about Eric's aka of Clinton nor of his brother's aka as Peter Joseph. But I did review Zeitgeist (here's the link: http://trustmovies.blogspot.com/2010/02/peter-josephs-zeitgeist-movie-its.html) and found it very interesting, if flawed.

What I don't understand is your comparison of BURZYNSKI with a conspiracy theory movie. Have you actually seen the film? If so, there is a lot of evidence pointing to the good doctor's being harassed by the medical establishment. And the lawsuits against him have so far proven specious.

To answer this part of your query:
"Assuming he didn't just hire Merola, why would a real doctor/scientist collaborate with a known conspiracy-peddler? Perhaps because Merola has demonstrated a brazen willingness to LIE, manipulate and distort in the past?" Well, maybe, just as I didn't know about these AKAs, Burzynski didn't know about these connections, either. He's awfully busy curing patients, after all.

I appreciate your taking the time to comment, Penelope, but I must stand by my feelings about the BURSYNSKI movie. I have not yet heard anything that would discount its veracity. And guilt by association I don't think is a legitimate tool to use against the movie, or even against Merola. (Was Zeitgeist really that bad? I don't think so.) But I will keep my eyes and ears open for any other negatives that might apply.

And again, thanks for commenting.

danyulengelke said...

Great review!

We're linking to your article for Medical Documentaries Thursday at SeminalCinemaOutfit.com

Keep up the good work!

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for the comment, Dan. I'm trying!